Last Thursday, the LF team and theprintspace hosted the private view of the Life Framer Photography Prize. The exhibition is a retrospective of the first year of the photography competition, featuring all winners and a hand-picked selection of honorary mentions. It showcases outstanding contemporary art from amateur, emerging and established photographers. Their stories, their lives, their talent… we all have a story to tell!
It was such a fantastic evening… the art was stunning, Frontier’s beer was tasty, and theprintspace was packed! It was great to see the regular Life Framer crowd as well as plenty of new faces. Here are a few pictures for those who couldn’t make it:
The art is for sale with no commission from us or theprintspace. Contact the Life Framer team (email@example.com) if you are interested. The exhibition catalogue is also for sale at www.life-framer.com/bookstore
Exhibition // April 1st – 22nd 2014theprintspace Gallery // 74 Kingsland Rd // E2 8DL London // United Kingdom
The Life Framer Exhibition is the culmination of the first edition of the Life Framer photography award. The exhibition showcases stunning contemporary work from 24 winning photographers, each selected by globally acclaimed judges across twelve months of diverse themes encompassing ‘Life’ at its most diverse – from the mundane to the magical, all over the world. Each theme is deliberately abstract in order to create freedom and encourage creativity.
The art is presented in a non-linear ‘cloud’ like arrangement. The display inter-weaves distinct stories, situations and characters in a powerful and inspiring way. The prints are impressive, the mounting is sharp and the art exhibited is absolutely stunning… Come to the gallery to discover it all!
Anna di Prospero, Anna Sowul, Annalaura Masciave, Anthony Cassell, Ariana Gomez, Aziza Vasco, Brenda Vaiani, Brianne Wills, Bruna Valenca, Cecilie Smith Oedegaard, Cesar Rodriguez Becerra, Cristina Venedict, Daniel Van Moll, Danielle Falknor, David Brunetti, David Steinboim, Debbie Kuo, Dipanjan Mitra, Elena Fortunati, Felicia Simion, Femke Boermans, Giovanna Del Sarto, Harry Benhaiem, Jeff Blucher, Jeff Seltzer, Jonathan Pozniak, Judith Hornbogen, Judy Mauer, Katja Kremenic, Kris Arzadun, Kristina Petrosiute, Lisa Allen, Luigi Avantaggiato, Luisa Carcavale, Michael Dietrich, Miska Draskoczy, Mitran Kaul, Neville Jones, Rafael Hernandez, Raki Nikahetiya, Rob Blews, Robb Klassen, Roza Vulf, Sandro Tedde, Sergio Carbajo, Shirren Lim, Sven Loach, Vici Watkins, Victoria Trevino, Yovcho Gorchev, Yuri Van Geenen
Aaron Huey, Alex Fradkin, Brian Finke, Brooke Shaden, Chloe Aftel, Chris Buck, Christine Santa Ana, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Mischa Haller, Nirrimi Firebrace, Of The Afternoon, Olivia Bee, Vincent Fournier
Last month we asked you to capture your Life as an Open Call, and the results were breath-taking. With such a special winning image, we couldn’t resist speaking with Vici Watkins, and delving a little deeper into her world! Vici, over to you!
Hey Vici! Firstly, congratulations on winning the final theme of Life Framer Edition One. The judges unanimously chose you as the winner. What made you enter the award?
Thank you! I’m so pleased! I saw the name Life Framer and the open call and thought ‘that’s for me’.
Describe your style to us…
It’s quite stylized – very white, very still. I use film, natural light and a lot of inanimate objects. I guess it’s a culmination of Renaissance paintings, Cornelia Parker and Kiki Smith.
The winning image is completely different from anything we’ve had before. For me it has a strong emotional quality, despite being a still life. Can you tell us a little bit about the photo and series?
I’m really glad you said that! The project explores and plays with the idea of that ‘in-between’ space that’s not quite childhood, not quite adulthood. Chapter Two focuses on the family dining table and it’s central place within our lives – it’s the epicentre of our social and personal worlds.
You seem to focus on still life work. Is this a conscious decision, or a product of your environment (it being hard to get hold of models etc)?
I work with ideas around the human psyche; our behaviours and emotions, trying to explore and understand why we act the way we do. The work is mainly responsive to the relationships we have with each other, with ourselves and how we nurture and sometimes neglect those bonds. I prefer to work with still life as I often find portraiture quite limiting when it comes to exploring emotions, as the ideas behind the project often get lost in favour for looking and engaging directly with the person in the image.
One of our judges mentioned that there are studies suggesting that products on eBay shot in a natural light sell for higher amounts than those shot with flash or under artificial light. You seem to work mostly with natural light – Other than to sell more of your work (we joke) is there a reason for this? Have you thought about it before?
Haha, I had no idea! I’ve always felt that by not using lights, I’m at a disadvantage in the commercial sphere. There we go, I’ve learnt something new! No, I use natural light for various reasons, mainly because I feel the ideas and subjects I’m working with should be lit by an organic light source. Lighting kits would be inappropriate in my mind. Also, natural light introduces a sense of time and development; two key factors I consider when I think about relationships.
Were there any other shortlisted images in our Final Call that stood out to you?
Yes, I loved Clare Benson’s work, and her ideas around the family and mortality. Suzanne Engelberg’s and Alexander Missen’s work both stood out for me too.
Who or what inspires you?
A lot of things, mainly the big three mentioned earlier. A big influence has been growing up with a mum, brother and two cousins who are all dyslexic and who all approach life with a different perspective. From simple things like the way letters move in front of them to create new words, to their highly imaginative way of deciphering the world in front of them. I have a very creative family! It’s definitely taught me to approach things with more than one perspective and to challenge the traditional view to find a new way of exploring old ideas.
I see that in the last few months you’ve shot a couple of features for the Telegraph Magazine. Is this editorial route something you’d like to pursue? It must be difficult trying to balance this with your more fine art work?
This has been on my mind a lot recently, half the fear is being freelance with no security. Some people thrive on it, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m one of them. I received a great piece of advice recently, from a colleague, who thought it would potentially hold me back as it would be too distracting. I think he’s right, I feel like I’m making work, when in reality, I’m just trying to earn a living. Having said that, I would never turn down the offer, as it’s always a great opportunity. It’s a tricky one.
What’s your dream project?
They’re not so much projects but two big dreams of mine are to complete a residency at the V & A and to study an MA in Fine Art at the Royal Academy – both of which would give me plenty of mental and physical space to make more substantial bodies of work.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently researching for my next project, I’m reading Black and Blue by Carol Mavor, with A Field Guide To Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit next on the list.
And where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years?! Hired hopefully! Self-sufficient, making work and content. That would be great.
Finally, anything else you’d like to add? Carte blanche…
A huge thank you to Life Framer and everyone else who has shown their support!
Thank you to Vici for entering the award and to all of you who made it happened! Life Framer is now closed for entries… Until then!
We caught up with Yovcho to ask him a little bit more about the image, his motivations and how you juggle photography, architecture and film making…
Yovcho, congratulations on winning Life Framer month 11: Times of Life. What drew you to the contest?
Thank you very much! What captured my attention about entering Life Framer’s competition were mainly two things: the first looking at the previous winners, I think the quality of work was outstanding and the second – the unique idea of 12 different months (themes) all culminating in an exhibition at the end.
We look forward to displaying your image at theprintspace in London. Have you been exhibited before?
I am very honoured to take part in it. I have been exhibited before in London through FOTO8 gallery and also in New York and Hong Kong through Lumen Galleries.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I think I am very much in the beginning stages of searching for it, while trying different techniques and situations.
1. Alice in Wonderland
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
We understand that you have qualifications in both Architecture and Film Design, and are a photographer, film maker and artist. How do you reconcile all of this, and where does your focus lie?
From the Architectural studies I took interest in the conceptual approach and nature of the course – the body image, its movement and spatial relation to the surrounding environment, while from the Film Design course I was interested in how to construct, convey and channel particular emotions, to bring forth the cinematic qualities of our everyday lives.
I see a broad range of styles in your work – often built around playing with light but covering fashion, fine art, travel and even surrealism. Tell us about how you work…
I guess based on the above mentioned interests my focus now lies in portraying characters, spaces, systems and atmospheres navigated through surreal scenarios and unlikely narratives. It is impossible not to be inspired at least 100 times a day by the things you see, based on the way culture is evolving and the way that we are drowned in audio-visual stimuli. At the beginning all this seemed very frustrating to me, the thirst to see everything that comes out, to read everything, but slowly through the realisation that it is impossible, let alone counter productive, I have become more composed and this helps me focus on a certain idea or project. I guess a sense of humility and self-irony is important in the ocean of creativity that seems more like being stuck in a vicious storm than a castaway on a tropical paradise.
Tell us about one of your series…
Recently I’ve been interested in the importance of humour. The playful, childlike curiosity and approach to life is probably the only thing I wish to take seriously, no pun intended. I think it looks easy and superficial on the surface and is not considered art but nonetheless I find it much more important. For example when you think of Cannes film festival you are not immediately thinking of screening theatres packed with laughter. So in this sense I started doing a small project aside that attempts to use well known sayings, phrases, hashtags, titles of books, movies, etc. and to portray them in a light-hearted manner. In the same way I try to immerse myself in similar situations and with all this constructed mainly around a point-and-shoot mentality while observing the outcome later. I guess it emerged from my fascination of how certain images or even series in contemporary photography are labelled Untitled 1,2,3, etc, as if no words are important, while others are carefully constructed titles, as if the images become secondary and the wording is all that matters. (LF – see photo 1 to 5)
What would be your dream photographic assignment?
Not trying to dodge the question but I suppose it has to be something unrealistic. There is a very good sequence in the movie “ The life of David Gale” so here I would just like to borrow and use some of its lines for the purpose of answering the question. “Fantasies have to be unrealistic because the moment, the second that you get what you seek, you don’t, you can’t want it anymore. In order to continue to exist, desire must have its objects perpetually absent. It’s not the “it” that you want, it’s the fantasy of “it.”…This is what Pascal means when he says that we are only truly happy when daydreaming about future happiness. Or why we say the hunt is sweeter than the kill. Or be careful what you wish for. Not because you’ll get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it once you do. So the lesson of Lacan is, living by your wants will never make you happy. What it means to be fully human is to strive to live by ideas and ideals and not to measure your life by what you’ve attained in terms of your desires but those small moments of integrity, compassion, rationality, even self-sacrifice. Because in the end, the only way that we can measure the significance of our own lives is by valuing the lives of others.”
Do you have a favourite image? What is it about this one?
No. It is a constant flux, everyday it is something different.
beyond the black rainbow
king of the wind
Were there any other shortlisted images that stood out to you?
As I said I was drawn to the competition based on the fantastic range of photos and would like to congratulate all on their memorable images. As for particular ones from the Times of Life theme that most resonate with my own visual aesthetics are the images by Giulia Bersani, James Theophane, Joris Hermans and Kelsey Austin Walsh.
What’s the most important thing photography has taught you?
To appreciate and have respect for the way others see and experience the world, to realise how universal the human condition is and at the same time how innately different our destinies are.
What are your plans for the future? Where can you imagine your art going?
First and foremost to meet more like-minded people, to collaborate on new projects and to give fruition to some of my video ideas.
Thank you Yocho, best of luck and see you in London for the show!
This month’s call for talent is an “OPEN CALL”. Like Yocho did last month, head here to enter the award… It’s a great opportunity to have your work reviewed by an acclaimed international photographer and exposed in a modern London gallery, as well as winning cash prizes, a Viewbook portfolio and online exposure.
For our final month we’re delighted to welcome a panel of guest judges from London (and beyond)’s burgeoning art scene.
With our ethos of providing exposure to emerging, talented photographers, it seemed right to centre the final month on some of our young and home-grown art entrepreneurs. Our final month’s panel is comprised of Christine Santa Ana, Phil Anderson, Miriam Otterbeck and Sebastian Richter, and is a celebration of London-focussed talent, creativity and ambition.
Christine Santa Ana is a busy independent Curator with a background in photography. In 2011 she co-founded Underground Gallery which she ran for two years, curating over twenty five exhibitions and working with many talented artists. Christine currently produces pop up exhibitions with photography magazine ‘Of The Afternoon’, which take place every three months, throughout cities in the UK. Her work is both fresh and timeless and her blog is well worth checking out for her sharp opinions and insider view.
‘Of the Afternoon’ is the brainchild and passion of Phil Anderson. Each edition is a beautiful and considered body of work, as informative as it is attractive; with the first half of the magazine sharing work featured in pop-up exhibitions around the country, and the second half featuring interviews and studio visits with young contemporary photographers all over the world. It’s is a labour of love and a masterclass in stunning image selection and tight editing. We invite you to have a lookfor yourself.
And finally, Sebastian and Miriam hold the fort at theprintspace galleryand fine art printing lab in East London (our home for our upcoming inaugural exhibition). theprintspace offers an innovative digital printing set-up with affordable prices, as well as a stunning modern gallery which has previously hosted the Professional Photographer of the Year Awards, Creative Review Photography Annual, the NME Music Photography Awards and the Hasselblad Masters. Miriam is also a talented freelance writer, and Sebastian is a gifted photographer in his own right. You can explore his work here.
With such depth of talent in the jury, it would be an impossible trying to select a focused theme for the month. Therefore our final month marks our second Open Call: An opportunity to show us Life as you see it, with no distraction or limitations.
On behalf of Christine, Phil, Miriam and Sebastian, we look forward to seeing your entries.
This month’s theme is “Times of Life“ judged by one of our favourite photographers here at LF HQ – Vincent Fournier. His work teems with intrigue and wonder, and he was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions… Join us at the point where dreams and reality meet.
Hi Vincent. Firstly, thank you for jumping on board as guest judge for ‘Times of Life’. Have you judged photography awards before? Can you tell us what you’re looking for in the winning image?
No I haven’t. Just some portfolios reviews at the Cortona Festival and at some workshops I’ve done in Art schools.
I don’t know what I am looking for, I have always a hungry eye – I like Japanese food as it’s both beautiful and tasty and sometime very unexpected!
You describe your work as “the imaginary and fantasy side of science”. Do you have a background in science? Where do you think this focus comes from?
No I don’t have any scientific back ground… this interest may come from childhood I guess, like many things in life… This fascination could certainly be attributed to the numerous afternoons spent with my parents visiting the ‘Science Museum’ in Paris, discovering some amazing installations.
Observe the stars, travel in space, make life or reprogram it, see the invisible… In scientific and technological research it is always the part of dreams and of mystery which interests me. Between Jules Verne and Jacques Tati, Charles Darwin and David Cronenberg, I play with certain forms of utopia to use the fictional and wonderful potential of science.
I like composing images where the sense and the non-sense mix. My photos question the world which surrounds us by creating shady, improbable, sometimes inconsistent situations, always on the border of serious history and childhood dreams.
I particularly like your series ‘The Man Machine’. The placement of robots in human situations is quite surreal – Sometimes amusing, sometimes quite unsettling. Can you tell us a bit more about this body of work?
I worked with a series of robots humanoids in daily situations: in work, in the house, in the street, during leisure activities… Imitations of every day where the robot acts out our everyday lives in the same way as a human being. It is about speculative fictions imagined from our present.
I collaborated with various Japanese robotic research laboratories. I tried to create a balance between the spectator and the robot, between a process of identification and distance. This principle is particularly visible in the movie “The Man Machine” where the situations suggest an empathy with the robot and at the same time a certain remoteness. We find this idea in the “the Uncanny Valley ” – A scientific theory of the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori, according to which the more a robot resembles a human being, the more its imperfections seem monstrous to us.
Your series ‘Post Natural History’ is “a collection of imagined ‘upcoming living species’ presented in the form of old-fashioned encyclopaedic entries”. Can you tell us a bit more about how these ‘species’ came about? Did you collaborate with scientists and researchers to invent them? More practically, how were the models made and photographed?
The Post Natural History project show the imaginary archives of a collection of “upcoming living species”, staged in the style of a cabinet of curiosity. I met a specialist in synthetic biology to discuss the possibilities of how living species could evolve according to technology and changing environment. I was interested in the idea of exaggerating the present in order to create speculative fiction.
At first I choose the species for an aesthetic reason, then I simply exaggerated features; a gesture, a texture, a detail… I didn’t want the transformations to be over-stated, nothing spectacular. That way the viewer is not certain whether the species is real or not, or even when and how it was made. To me it is important that the species themselves are objects of beauty, with the transformation being initially unclear. For instance when you first look at the Dragonfly [Chloromgonfus detectis] nothing indicates that it is anything more than a normal Dragonfly. It is only when you have a closer look that you find out the abdomen is made of glass, and the scientific caption accompanying the image gives you the explanation: Its body is a censor to detect traces of volatile inorganics.
The series ‘Space Project’ is probably your best known work and comprises images from Russian, Kazakhstan and American space centers. How did you persuade these space agencies to let you into their facilities to take photographs? I imagine these environments to be quite secret and sensitive to prying eyes…
Space Project is a subjective inventory of the most representative places, objects or situations regarding space exploration. I have photographed the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center of Star City in Russia; the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; the Space Centers of the NASA in Cape Canaveral in the United States; Ariane Espace in Guiana; the observatories in the Atacama desert in Chile, in New Mexico, and in Nevada; the Mars Desert Research Station of Martian simulation in the Red Desert of Utah… The access to these locations takes a lot of time due to the security level. Sometimes it took me a year to gain authorisation and I then had only 2 hours to work. That restriction is very interesting for creativity.
“At some point in Life, the world’s beauty becomes enough” – Toni Morrison
It can be hard to find sometimes, but beauty pervades everything, and in the most unexpected ways. This month’s shortlist was a testament to that. Every image different, and yet every image sharing a beauty. Our month’s judge Brooke Shaden selected the winners and made some inspirational comments. See the full shortlist on our Facebook page and join in the conversation.
A worthy winner was Kristina’s stunning image of beauty past. We caught up with Kristina to find out a little more…
Hi Kristina. Firstly, congratulations on winning our ‘Beauty in Life’ contest. It’s a stunning image. Can you describe the image in your own words? What do you make of Brooke’s comments?
Thank you so much. I’ve been following Life Framer’s competition for a while now. I find it really interesting and exciting that every month there is a new judge. Recently I watched this course about fine art portraits with Brooke Shaden on creativeLIVE. It was really inspiring. When I saw that she was going to be a judge for Life Framer, I decided to give it a try.
The people in the image are my parents when they were young and still in love. Sadly there was no happy ending in their story. This image is a poetic expression of my mother’s life or at least the way I saw it.
My mother started crying after I read Brooke’s comment to her. It seems as if Brooke Shaden felt exactly what I was trying to tell with this image.
Were there any other shortlisted images that stood out for you?
I liked the work of Wout Overkamp. I love images that make me stop and think.
Where does your passion for photography stem from? How would you describe your style?
I think my father was the one who introduced me with the magic of photography. Our bathroom was his darkroom. I remember myself there submerged in red light counting seconds with him. I am still very passionate about darkroom. Sometimes I stay there until early morning. I wish I had more time to do it more often.
I can’t describe my style. I know I have it but I still haven’t found the words to describe it. I guess it is little bit naïve, simple, but emotional. I find it difficult to express myself verbally so I guess my photographs are my words.
When I look at your work I see themes of solitude and nature; stunning natural landscapes, sometimes with a lone figure, or sometimes completely empty. Is this a fair description? Is this a deliberate focus, or a reaction to your surroundings (Kristina lives and works in Reykjavík, Iceland)?
It is a natural reaction to my surroundings. Nature is so stunning here and it feels so close. Closer than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I guess it influences my work a lot.
Tell us a bit more about Iceland… What’s the photography scene like there? It’s certainly a mysterious part of the world to many of us…
Well… I really love Iceland. There aren’t enough words to describe its nature’s beauty. Reykjavik is cute and adorable. The people are nice and friendly and there is always something going on in the city. On other hand the photography scene is quite slow, although there are some really great photographers. One of my favourites is RAX.
Your winning image comes from a series called ‘Biography’. Can you tell us a little more about it?
‘Biography’ is an ongoing project. And I hope it won’t stop for a long time. Every photo from ‘Biography’ represents a certain period of my life. For example the winning image represents my birth and childhood.
I see you’ve done some commissioned work, and manage to combine fashion with your more naturalistic style quite impressively… Tell us about this assignment. Are you seeking more commissioned work?
Thank you. This project was commissioned by the Latvian clothing company BLANKBLANK. They are creating a new collection inspired by patterns of Icelandic nature. I was asked to take photos for their collection intro. It was fun, I met nice people and had a chance to do what I like to do the most – travel and take photos.
Even though my schedule is really tight, I am always open for more commissioned work. I find it really fun.
What would be your dream project?
Travelling around Iceland, staying in remote villages and farms, visiting places that people don’t visit often and document my journey.
Which of your images are you most proud of?
One of the images from the mini-series ‘Fisherman’s Wife’ still makes me happy. I had only several seconds to take it, my camera broke down (I worked with a film camera), the model was freezing and I got pneumonia because of the cold. After all that stress I still think it was worth it.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you offer us a sneak preview?
I am working on a series called ‘Solaris’. It is inspired by my favourite USSR sci-fi film ‘Solaris’ by Andrei Tarkovsky and the magnificent landscapes of Iceland.
What has photography taught you?
There are many things coming to my mind, but the most important is that I learnt to believe in myself.
Our current theme is ‘Times of Life’. Show us an image of yours that comes to mind under this theme…
I always feel that we spend a lot of time in our life just waiting for something or someone. I guess this is the photo that comes to my mind first.
Anything else you’d like to add? Carte blanche…
If you want to do something in your life don’t hesitate and do it. For me it took 30 years to understand.
Thank you Kristina!
This month’s call for talent is “Times of Life” judged by the incredible Vincent Fournier. Like Kristina did last month, head here to enter the award… It’s a great opportunity to have your work reviewed by an acclaimed international photographer and exposed in a modern London gallery, as well as winning cash prizes, a Viewbook portfolio and online exposure.
Space Project: Baikonur City #2 [Unknown Fields Division], The International Space School VN Chelomey, Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan, 2011.
“[My] photographs play with reality and perception, the true and the false, the living and the artificial”.
We are delighted to welcome Vincent Fournier as our guest judge for month 11.
Vincent was born in Burkina Fasso, and now lives in Paris. He studied Visual Arts, Sociology and Photography and since 2011 has been giving workshops and lectures at prestigious photographic institutions around the world. His Space project & Archeology of the future gathered worldwide attention at solo and collective exhibitions across nearly every continent and his long list of publications include magazines such as Wallpaper, Wired, The Sartorialist, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.
Vincent claims that the photography is about seeing and then choosing. It can be summarized for him as a matter of choice. His works are fuelled by a fascination of science and of different forms of utopia, and are executed with a perfect balance of childlike inquisitiveness and crisp, mature clarity. They are beautiful, poetic visions of the world; the real and the imagined.
Vincent says that he “[Sees] science as magic: a link between the visible and the invisible world” and his images bleed with a magical, otherworldly quality. In ‘Space Project’ he takes us on a journey with the intergalactically obsessed – physicists, astronauts and space enthusiasts – and the results are spectacular; half visions from the future, and half nostalgic memories. Similarly in ‘Post Natural History: Archaeology of the future ’ he documents ‘upcoming living species’ – A collection of new creatures based on current synthetic biology research, and presented in the form of old-fashioned encyclopaedic entries. It is currently showing in both Paris and Dublin.
Vincent work leaves you intrigued, enthralled and searching for a time frame, and it’s this ability that makes him the perfect judge for a theme based on timelines. “I like the idea of finding beauty in the unexpected” he says, and this will be your challenge for January.
We invite you to explore more of his work online and seek out his series ‘Post Natural History’, ‘Space Project’, ‘Brasilia’ as well as the compendium of his work ‘Past Forward’ in print form – They offer an exquisite presentation of an incredible, unreal body of work.
Exposition Oxymore#1 – Galerie Acte2 Rive Gauche/La galerie d’en face – www.acte2rivegauchelagaleiredenface.com
Grown your own – Post Natural History – Science gallery Dublin – http://dublin.sciencegallery.com
7 billion people in the world and counting, each of us unique but grouped by our beliefs, customs, environment, attidues, motives… Last month we dived head first into A World of Cultures – Expertly overseen by Aaron Huey of National Geographic fame. Once again, the entries were varied and inspiring, asking questions and throwing surprises our way. See the full shortlist on our Facebook page and join in the conversation.
A worthy winner was Kris’ stunning image of Tokyo loneliness. We caught up with Kris to find out a little more…
Hi Kris. Congratulations on winning Life Framer month 9 – A World of Cultures. You’d been shortlisted twice previously so perseverance paid off! Why did you choose to enter Life Framer?
Thank you. Yes, I’m not the kind of person that throws in the towel. I came across Life Framer in April with Olivia Bee judging and I didn’t think twice. I like everything about Life Framer: every month a new theme and judge, the feedback of the judge… And of course I’m excited about the exhibition.
Your winning image is quite special, and not your usual ‘culture’ image – Our judge Aaron Huey described it as a ‘lonely, apocalyptic image’, ‘good enough that it makes me want to write a story to go with it’. Tell us a bit more about the image, what it means to you and what you make of Aaron’s interpretation…
First I have to say that Aaron’s work with the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is admirable. I was very moved with his TED lecture. So I really agree with him when he says “The world is annihilating the diversity of indigenous people, their cultures, and languages as fast as it can, preserving only the caricature of that original truth.”
I took the photo last year in Tokyo. Tokyo is an amazing city but also a concrete jungle where a lot of people feel lonely, “despite being surrounded by billions” as Aaron says. On the other hand I have to say that I think that Japan is one of the countries in the world that better preserves their culture and heritage.
Aaron couldn’t have explained the image better. It’s exactly what it means to me. I like when he says it’s fiction and as a great fan of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami I wouldn’t mind if he also would write a story to go with the image.
Did any of the other shortlisted images stand out to you?
Yes, my favourite is the man dancing by Owen Harvey. I love the framing. It makes me want to dance.
Tell us a bit about your background – How did you start taking photos, and what motivates you to keep on taking photos?
I started taking photos very young because of my father, Jose Ignacio Arzadun. He is still an unstoppable photographer. I’m 37 now and by the age of 6 I was already taking photos. I grew up between his slices. At about the age of 21 I quit photography, very unmotivated. And 12 years later, in 2009, I bought a new camera and started again. I know it’s a big gap, but I don’t regret it. It’s just the way it was.
My father was my teacher and I’m very proud of him. Last year we had an exhibition together. It was very emotional.
Let me use the name of the contest to explain what motivates me to keep on taking photos, it is very simple: to frame life. Capture life and show it the way I see it. It’s the best way I know to express myself.
Looking through your portfolio you seem to be preoccupied with people and their relationship with their environments – particularly modern, urban environments. Is this fair? How would you describe your style?
Yes, totally. I like people and cities, Street Photography. I do what I want, I don’t mind if I don’t fit in a particularly style. I would describe it as transgressive but with a classic touch, passionate and vivid but also spontaneous and impulsive.
I see places from all over the world in your work – Tokyo, London, Paris. How important is travel to your work?
It’s very important. I live in San Sebastian, a town of about 180,000 population, in the north of Spain, in the Basque Country. It’s beautiful, everybody likes it. The bay, the beach…it’s a postcard city. But aesthetically it doesn’t motivate me at all.
My parents made me love travelling. I took Tourism Studies at the University. I enjoy travelling as much as taking photographs…
Do you have a favourite photo? Tell us about it…
It’s not easy to choose a favourite, but I choose this portrait of Hasiba I took in Bosnia in 2011. The war in Bosnia is still an open wound. I see Hasiba as someone who suffered but also as a strong woman. People in Bosnia are very hospitable, they offer drink, food, a bed…without asking for anything in return.
My favourite photo is this old man against the black and white background (below). Tell us about that one too…
It’s been a long time since I stopped to look at that photo. I took that one in Madrid in 2010.
That man is thinking to himself while walking, but I see he has troubles, I see sadness and resignation. I think it could illustrate the economic crisis in Spain.
What are you working on at the moment? Where’s your focus?
Now I’m really focused on the disposable camera project. I really enjoy it. At the beginning it started as a joke really. Everybody was asking me: What are you doing with that camera? I shot the first colour disposable camera in august 2012 and then luckily Ilford started selling the black and white. I’m now shooting with my 8th disposable camera. I do portraits mainly by night, so I use the flash.
I like to have only 27 exposures. One shot for each person. Which means I have to think a lot who and when. And then, no rush, you’ll see the result in two or three months. I’m planning to do an exhibition in 2016.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
From Anders Petersen in a workshop in 2011 after seeing my portfolio. He told me to change my Nikon D300 for a smaller camera and to be more “animal”.
What’s the best lesson your time in photography has taught you?
To be more tolerant.
Where do you see yourself as a photographer in 5 years?
This question is the most difficult one. I really don’t know. If someone in January would have told me that I was going to be answering these questions in December I wouldn’t believe him. So who knows…I dream big but my feet are on the ground.
Show us the last image you took…
The last one was with a disposable camera, so we’ll have to wait for that one. This one I took last month with my smartphone.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. Saul Leiter, my favourite photographer, passed away 26 November.
Master in photography and in life.
So this one goes out to him.
Thank you Kris!
This month’s call for talent is “Beauty in Life” judged by the very special Brooke Shaden. Like Krisdid last month, head here to enter the award… It’s a great opportunity to have your work reviewed by an acclaimed international photographer and exposed in a modern London gallery, as well as winning cash prizes, a Viewbook portfolio and online exposure.
This month’s theme is “Beauty In Life“ judged by the fantastic Brooke Shaden. She was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions… Dive into her ethereal world and maybe unlock a few mysteries behind her incredible photographic creations.
As film student you were always close to images… When did you realise that photography is the most suitable medium to express your vision?
Only after I graduated. I have a tendency to become very obsessed with whatever I am working on and I like to stay focused on one thing rather than many. So when I find a passion, I stick to it wholeheartedly. The same was true for film. I worked very hard at learning a lot and trying to make a film that I could be proud of, and only after I graduated did I allow myself to explore other avenues. That was in December 2008, the first time I seriously picked up a camera. I started creating the worlds I wished I could live in.
Was there a point when you realised you’d ’found your style’? What did it feel like?
I sort of come at this from a different angle in that from the beginning I knew what I wanted my style to be, but had to figure out technically how to do it. That is not to say that my style hasn’t evolved; it certainly has and always will. However, I didn’t start photography because I enjoyed the medium. I started photography because I knew it would be another avenue I could explore to make my dreams a reality, and it just happened to click better than a film camera for me.
the sinking ship
Each of your images looks like a portal into a mysterious world. Is there any ongoing narrative or are there any recurring characters in your images?
Definitely! More than anything else there are recurring spaces in which different characters exist. For example, I have many images set in the forest with the same dark and brooding backdrop, but different characters who explore that world. Each of those characters are different, hence making the images different, but they all explore similar themes. I also have certain characters that come back time and time again, like the classic fairytale character of Little Red Riding Hood, who I absolutely adore, and a series that I did on Ophelia from Hamlet.
Oh yes! Very thankful to you for being so kind about it. That image was a big experiment for me. It was my first time creating a triptych in which the image was comprised of 3 square images to create one scene, yet each image stands on it’s own as well. I shot that image at the beach and it took a lot of separate images to make the scene come to life realistically. I almost threw it in the trash! It took me a full month to edit and I was so fed up with it by the end that I was convinced it would never get released. Some pictures are like that. You have the best intentions and try everything to make it work, but it just doesn’t. I put it to rest after about 15 days straight of trying to salvage it, and when I came back, it was like I instantly knew what to do. I love how time can change your perspective.
The image was a departure for me in terms of character, and even though the subject is one that I use often (I love capturing the moment before something dramatic happens), I tried to do it in a different way.
Have you had any ideas for images that you just haven’t been able to realise, due to lack of location, props or something else ?
Absolutely, but I know they will come to fruition. That is the thing about having a dream – there is always a way to see it through to reality. I have a dream of photographing a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean with a model and a beautiful flowing dress. That is my dream. I have taken certain steps to make it reality. I started getting over my fear of the ocean and claustrophobia, and I shoot underwater as well, partially in preparation. It is only a matter of time!
running from wind
You run photography ‘retreats’ which seem like more than just classes. Do you think it’s important to create a certain environment around you when you shoot?
I do! I believe that inspiration comes in it’s most pure form when you are at peace with yourself. Only when you understand who you are and why you are can you find the inspiration within. The retreats that I host go over what a normal workshop would, but in the time of 3 days instead of 2, and with big emphasis on finding your style and inspiration. If you can rely on yourself to stay motivated and to feel alive, everything will flourish.
As a teacher, what’s your one most important piece of advice you can pass on?
Be confident in who you are; if you aren’t, no one else will have a reason to be either.
What other photographers do you admire? Who has been the biggest inspiration on your work ?
I love the works of Gregory Crewdson perhaps more than any other due to his amazing planning skills and how cinematic everything is. There are some people who can spin a yarn, and his are the most captivating to me. As far as inspirations for my own work, probably the biggest comes from sources outside of photography. I love the Pre-Raphaelite painters as well as movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, and my favorite book is Dune by Frank Herbert.
Dream House courtesy of Gregory Crewdson
Have you ever done any commissions? Is this something you’d be interested in doing?
I have on occasion. I will sometimes shoot book covers or album art, and much more infrequently will shoot fine art portraits for clients. It is something that I love doing sparingly. I never wanted to have to create on a regular basis for someone else, with their vision. That is why I love doing fine art, because I have freedom in what I put out into the world. However, sometimes I get requests to simply be part of an image and I am left with control, and those are the types of collaborations that I love. It excites me to hear feedback and be given a direction and know that I can play and have fun.
among the decay of wild forest
What other art forms do you enjoy the most outside of photography?
Writing. Writing is probably my number one activity. I currently have 65 unpublished blog posts because I write all the time. I find it to be hugely cathartic, not to mention it helps with storytelling. Every time I get to write a story I have the opportunity to make them more meaningful and personal, and all art forms can grown from there.
Thank you to Brooke for taking the time out to share her thoughts and insights with us. You can see more of her work here and explore the theme she’ll be judging here.